Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

pull through somehow.' In the meantime, however, the American Navy was trained by years of sea service including much scrambling warfare with the Algerines ; “and,' added Mr. Roosevelt,' the American captains, fully aware of the formidable nature of the foe whom they were to meet, drilled their crews to as near perfection as might be. In such circumstances they distinctly outmarched their average opponents and could be encountered on equal terms only by men like Broke and Manners.' Summarising his conclusions, formed after a period of service in the Navy Department of the United States, which had merely moulded his general observation as soldier and statesman, Mr. Roosevelt added this significant statement :

There is unquestionably a great difference in fighting capacity, as there is a great difference in intelligence, between certain races. But there are a number of races, each of which is intelligent, each of which has the fighting edge. Among these races the victory in any contest will go to the man or the nation that has earned it by thorough preparation. This preparation was absolutely necessary in the days of sailing ships ; but the need for it is even greater now, if it be intended to get full benefit from the delicate and complicated mechanism of the formidable war engines of the present day. The officers must spend many years, and the men not a few, in unvaried and intelligent training before they are fit to do all that is possible with themselves and their weapons. Those who do this, whether they be Americans or British, French, German, or Russian, will win the victory over those who do not. Doubtless it helps if the sailormen -the sea mechanics, as they are now called-have the sea habit to start with, and they must belong to the fighting stocks. But the great factor is the steady, intelligent training in the actual practice of their profession. . . . Among brave and intelligent men of different race stocks, when the day of battle comes, the difference of race will be found to be as nothing when compared with the difference in thorough and practical training in advance.

Herein lies the new standard of naval power by which, and by which alone, the sea standings of the nations of the world can be judged. Preparedness for war presupposes the supply of an adequate number of ships and sufficient crews to man them, but the ships and the men are merely the material out of which naval power may be created.

Almost simultaneously with this change naval nomenclature has become hopelessly disordered, and the citizen who casually interests himself in sea affairs not unnaturally becomes confused as to the issues. He learns that there may be battles without battleships, as at the Yalu ; cruises without cruisers, as in the case of the world-cruise of the fleet of the United States; torpedo warfare without torpedo craft, as occurred when the Huascar was sunk. He finds on reference to any naval handbook that battleships may be inferior in gun power to vessels frequently designated as cruisers; and that cruisers may be found in the great fleets which are distinctly inferior in speed to battleships. He discovers that torpedo boats, such as those most recently added to the British Fleet, may be larger and swifter than many destroyers ; that there are torpedo-boat destroyers which are bigger and more powerful than torpedo gunboats ; that

there are submarines, which he has come to regard as ' little things,' which are actually of greater displacement than some destroyers and far larger than many above-water torpedo boats. He notices as he digs into this or that reference book that the material for the sophistication of statistics for popular consumption is so plentiful, and the dividing line between this type of ship and that so ill-defined, that it is extremely difficult to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion if calculations of naval strength are confined to a mere rule-of-thumb enumeration of ships and men.

If the strength of navies is to be judged with any approach to accuracy, something more must be taken into account than the numbers of ships in the various loosely defined classes, of men, and of guns. These efforts in the ' rule of three may serve as a foundation, but inquiry must be pressed further. The material for such an investigation, it will be found, is at once scanty and confusing. The only readily accessible basis for a comparison of naval power is supplied by the proportion of the ships and personnel which are associated constantly in preparation for war—in other words, in the number of ships kept permanently in commission. Other factors may also enter into the calculation, such as the degree to which this or that race has the fighting edge, the efficiency of the direction and organisation, and the period during which officers and men serve, always less under conscription than under a voluntary system of national service. In Great Britain, for instance, the average time that a seaman serves is over ten years, and in the German fleet it is three years—a factor of no mean importance.

But for the present purpose attention may well be confined to the active peace standing of the European navies as a guide to their value as fighting machines. Thus we come face to face with the most remarkable development of naval policy of the past century.

If the German people are scientific and methodical, they are also severely practical, and from the moment that the new standard of naval strength had been legally established by the Navy Bill, Germany turned her attention to the realisation of her high ideals. Side by side with the matériel expansion has proceeded a movement of even more significance-namely, the consistent and persistent training of the personnel for the new navy. In proportion to her strength in ships Germany maintains on a war footing a larger numerical force than any other country, not excepting Great Britain. Her strength in ships is still inconsiderable. She possesses to-day only ten vessels which can legitimately be described as battleships. These ten vessels are of 13,000 tons displacement only, and each carries four 11-inch

in association with fourteen 6:6-inch quickfirers. Well armoured, judged by the pre-Dreadnought standard, and of admirable design, in fighting power they undoubtedly represent good value for the sums spent upon their construction. They are, however, the only ships under the

guns

[ocr errors]

German flag which can be regarded as battleships, and they are not now of the first class. Germany possesses fourteen other battle

' ships' less than twenty-five years old, but in these days of large displacements and great concentration of fighting power, they are little better than coast-defence vessels. Indeed, they belong to the period when the German Fleet was a coast-defence force. Their main armament is considerably inferior to that which is carried by the best British cruisers. All these ships are the antithesis to the Dreadnought. The German naval authorities in their design sacrificed the primary armament in order to obtain a heavy secondary armament. To-day Germany, in common with other navy departments, is eliminatingor perhaps it is better put as subordinating—the secondary guns in order to obtain a heavier concentration of big-gun fire in accordance with the all-big-gun principle.

The inferiority of existing German matériel becomes a matter of striking significance when it is considered in direct contrast to the present organisation of the German Navy. The naval authorities at the Wilhelmstrasse are, and have for some time past been, cognisant of the existing inferiority of their armoured ships ; hence the decision to build Dreadnoughts. But nevertheless the existing fleet is being tuned up to a higher note of efficiency. Though Germany possesses only ten ships which are worthy of being regarded as battleships, she fills out her active fleet to-day with smaller vessels, and keeps a force of sixteen of these battleships and coast defence ships in commission and actively employed-on a war footing. By this means she is to-day training the officers and the men who will be required for manning the large vessels of the first class which are now under construction. German policy is the direct opposite to that which was formerly followed in England and the defects of which were glaringly illustrated in the downfall of the Russian Fleet. Russia scoured the whole world for ships and neglected to train her personnel. In a relatively short time she acquired an immense amount of war matériel, and then when the crisis in her history arrived it was found that the resources in officers and men were inadequate. and tillers of the soil were suddenly pressed into the naval service, with little or no training, while of trained direction at headquarters there

In Germany naval expansion has proceeded on definite, well-calculated lines. In such ships as she possesses Germany is teaching her officers the higher art of naval warfare. As new ships are completed this personnel will be drafted into them, and thus the naval power of Germany may prove to be greater actually than the mere tabular enumeration of her new matériel resources would suggest.

.

was none.

It should be added that from October to March the German High Sea Fleet is manned with practically only nucleus crews, as in the former month nearly onethird of the men go into reserve, and their places are taken by newly entered conscripts--men entirely fresh to the sea routine.

This work of building up the German Navy has been in progress for upwards of ten years, and now a further development of her naval policy has become apparent. In the Navy Act of 1900 it was admitted that Germany could not hope to rival the greatest naval Power-Great Britain-in her marine resources. This inferiority was to be compensated for ' by the individual training of the crews and by tactical training by practice in large bodies.' At the time when these words were dictated to the German nation, then unwilling converts to the big navy idea, Great Britain possessed in British waters one poorly organised and inadequately trained naval force only, and that consisted of eight battleships and four cruisers largely manned by youths and boys, and without any auxiliary vessels or torpedo craft in association with it. In the meantime the efficiency of the British Fleet has been increased, the temper of the British people has been roused, and Germany's original hopes and ambitions are further from realisation to-day than they were ten years ago.

What could Germany do in such circumstances ? In consequence of various limitations, financial and industrial, she could not hope to realise her early ambitions and gain the advantage from them which had been anticipated. Thus arose the new and startling development of German policy. Month by month Germany and Austria have been drawing closer together. They already possess armies on a war footing of over seven million men. Germany's Fleet is rapidly growing, while Austria’s Fleet to-day is one of the most insignificant in matériel strength in Europe ; it has not yet begun to grow. Whether at the direct suggestion of Germany or not, Austria is now about to embark upon a policy of naval expansion which will eventually raise her to a first-class naval Power. This is an event of the first magnitude. Austria-Hungary has only a small coastline and no colonies, and her trade has never for a moment been threatened. Austria has no need for a defensive Navy. Her new Navy will be an offensive agent.

The importance of the existing naval defence of the AustroHungarian Empire may be judged from the fact that the total outlay on the fleet amounts to a little over two and a half millions sterling annually, which is equivalent to less than half the expenditure of Italy, about one-fifth that of France, and one-eighth that of Germany. The expenditure has been increasing for the past two or three years, but the Austrian Navy remains one of the smallest in Europe. In these circumstances it is curious to read the wonderful stories which have lately appeared in the Press as to Austrian Dreadnoughts as though they were a fait accompli. It is said that three of these ships will be completed by 1912. It is suggested that in this period of three years Austria will develop into a powerful ally of Germany. All these fanciful imaginings arise from ignorance of the fundamental facts.

To-day Austria has not a single vessel which can be legitimately

designated a battleship. The fleet includes three modern vessels of 10,500 tons, the biggest gun in which is a 9:4 weapon of 40 calibres, they are really large, well-armoured cruisers with speeds approaching twenty knots. Apart from these three vessels, Austria possesses six other ships carrying the same calibre heavy gun, but of considerably smaller displacement, three being of 8300 tons only and the remainder of only 5500 tons. The Austrian Navy also includes two armoured cruisers and five protected cruisers. The authorities have now under construction three ships which merit the designation of battleships. They displace 14,500 tons and will mount four 12-inch and eight 9:4-inch guns—they are virtually small Lord Nelsons and their fighting power can be judged from their displacement. Two of these ships, it is officially hoped, will be completed in 1911 and the third in 1912. Thus three years hence Austria will possess a number of coast-defence ships and protected cruisers with three battleships of the second class. This will be the standard of Austrian strength three years hence. In Austria it has hitherto taken four or five years to build even a battleship of moderate displacement, owing to the modest facilities for construction which exist and the large dependence of the Navy upon Krupp's establishment for its armaments. It is possible, indeed probable, that next year Austria will lay down one ship of the Dreadnought type and another in 1911, with a third in 1912, and it will occasion little surprise if, with a doubling of her naval expenditure, these ships are completed in three years. That German yards will assist by building for Austria is an unlikely contingency in view of the pressure of work they are now experiencing.

The dominating fact is that Austria is preparing, as Germany has been preparing, for the birth of the great fleet of to-morrow. Austria is proceeding on the same lines as Germany. While the plans for the expansion of the feet are being completed, the Austrian authorities are devoting their attention to the utilisation of the existing resources for the training of officers and men who will be drafted to the new ships of maximum power which are about to be built. No incident of recent date illustrates more conclusively the character of the Austrian naval organisation than the incidents of last spring. When the annexation of Herzegovina and Bosnia was decided upon,

, Austria not only mobilised a large military force, but her existing Navy was placed upon a war footing. The order for mobilisation was received at Pola on the 15th of March : 10,000 reservists were called upon suddenly to join the fleet in the shortest possible time. It was anticipated that about 20 per cent. would fail to respond. The actual defection amounted to only 5 per cent., and this small margin was further reduced by the large number of volunteers who came in. Within twenty-four hours of the order being issued by the Marine Department of the Ministry of War, the reserve squadron of Austria was completely manned, and within four days the whole Austrian

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small]
« VorigeDoorgaan »